COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
November 23, 2012. Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Maguindanao massacre and much as I try to rationalize the various possibilities surrounding that gruesome event, still there is this uncanny feeling that the whole thing happened due to some external forces, as in staged to draw worldwide attention or to make a statement to those who were in power at that period of time.
There was something unnatural in the whole scenario owing to the sheer magnitude of political violence that could happen during election period, even for a war-torn Muslim Mindanao. The grossly act of mass slaughter was so out of proportion to the possible motive of simply holding or grabbing a gubernatorial post. And the irony of it all was that the prime target Esmael Mangudadatu, who could simply be eliminated by motorcycle men riding in tandem, was not in the picture or the crime scene. Yet, the mass murder proceeded and for what?
We are not in the Balkan Peninsula or in the African Continent that is associated with ethnic cleansing, or like some Latin American or Asian countries involved in state-led massacres on opposition forces. Even with our own history of violence, the Maguindanao massacre was quite un-Filipino. And I’m beginning to believe what the irrepressible Marlene Aguilar, author of Warriors of Heaven, insinuated on air months ago that the Maguindanao massacre was orchestrated by some operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Three years ago on 23 November 2009 the convoy of Esmael Mangudadatu’s wife on its way to the Commission on Election in Shariff Aguak to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor, was blocked by over a hundred men led by Andal Ampatuan Jr. In a bizarre twist of fate, everyone who traversed that road at that point in time was abducted and killed, then buried along with their vehicles. Some women were raped and shot at the genitals while some of the men were mutilated. All in all, 58 persons died including 34 media practitioners.
The event brought worldwide attention as the biggest media killing in recent history. And we are not even in the midst of war like Iraq, Israel, or Afghanistan to earn such great loss of media personnel at one point in time. But my question then and now was that why there were so many media people accompanying Mangudadatu’s wife. Was it merely to prevent a probable tragedy or rather present a greater one. The perpetrators and victims of this horrible event could be some unwitting participants in a world drama staged in an Asian setting.
The Ampatuans rule strongly in Maguindanao and own vast tracts of land where their constituents live, and thus unduly hold power over a lot of people. Many political leaders belong to the clan. There was really no need to have that show of force in that November 23, 2009 tragedy. Few observers even noted that an Ampatuan vehicle coming on the road would necessitate one to get out of the way, no alarm needed. Fear plainly prevailed among the populace in that land.
Family feuds that lead to occasional violence in Muslim Mindanao still pale in comparison to the Maguindanao massacre. And even with the existence of political dynasties warring among each other, the political violence that ensued were engagements of the smaller kind. There were massacres in the early 70s but they were perpetrated by Ilaga-military elements against the Moros and considered as violence of a different kind.
Three years ago after that tragic event, I wrote two articles trying to analyze the situation in a cultural context and the prevailing political environment in the Arroyo regime where some political leaders in Muslim Mindanao were allowed to maintain private armies in order to fight the insurgents. Yet still these variables would not warrant such senseless violence as that of the Maguindanao massacre.
Meanwhile, the slow wheel of justice has further added insult to the injury and made a mockery of the whole situation. But lessons can be learned, insights drawn, and necessary changes can be made to prevent another recurrence of that tragic event. It never rang right in the first place – by reason or by mere logic.
November 23, 2012